MOBILE former Cheetahs and Edinburgh lock Izak van der Westhuizen is the first of the new recruits named by the EP Kings as they start to add extra muscle to their squad ahead of the big Currie Cup Premier Division kick-off.
The Kings have promised to sign at least six new players and Van der Westhuizen is the first new recruitto nail his colours to the mast of the men in red and black hoops.
The 28-year-old Van der Westhuizen played for the Cheetahs before linking up with Edinburgh in 2012.
EP Kings chief executive Charl Crous said Van der Westhuizen had signed a three-year deal and would arrive in June at the end of the Scottish season.
“I am very excited about the new challenge ahead for myself and my family,” van der Westhuizen said.
“In the past Super Rugby season I gained a lot of respect for the Kings and the way they are doing things in PE and hope I can add to that in a positive way.”
Former Southern Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons is at Edinburgh with former Kings stars Cornell du Preez and Andries Strauss and he may have played a part in Van der Westhuizen deciding to relocate to Port Elizabeth. When Van der Westhuizen, regarded as one of rugby’s most athletic second-row forwards, signed for Edinburgh he said: “I run the set-piece for the Cheetahs but, when the ball’s in play, I like to be in the centre of the park getting stuck into the physical side of the game and hitting rucks.”
Meanwhile, rugby in the country areas has been given a shot in the arm by the EP Kings deciding to play their next two Vodacom Cup home matches in Grahamstown and Cradock.
After crashing to a 17-10 defeat in their opening match against the Kenyan Tusker Simba XV, the Kings will be hoping for good support in Grahamstown on Saturday when they face the Border Bulldogs at Rhodes University (3pm kick-off).
After the Bulldogs clash the Kings travel to Cape Town to play Western Province on March 22 before they face a Free State XV in Cradock on March 29.
The match in Cradock will form part of Cradock’s 200th anniversary celebrations. The only time the Kings will be in action at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium during the league stages of the competition is on April 12 when they host Boland.
The Kings name their team to face Border today and there could be some changes to the line-up that lost to the Tuskers.
Siviwe “Shakes” Soyizwapi and Scott van Breda, who were in the Kings team against the Kenyans, may not be considered for the Border game.
The pair, who did not make the Stormers Super Rugby overseas touring party after they were loaned out, have been incorporated into the Kings squad making preparations for the Currie Cup Premier Division.
After their setback against the Kenyans, the Kings will have another tough battle on their hands against a Border side who put up a spirited showing against a Sharks XV at the weekend.
With several senior players on a conditioning programme ahead of the Currie Cup Premier Division, the Kings have been fielding inexperienced teams in their opening games.
The Sharks XV was forced to fight back hard in the final 30 minutes against a spirited Bulldogs side, who led by 24-10 early in the second half at the Buffalo City Municipality Stadium.
In the end however, the KwaZulu-Natalians simply had too much left in the tank as they scored a comfortable 46-24 win to take an early lead at the top of the South Section of the log standings.